The Mindful Intentions Guide
Nutritional Therapist Eve Kalinik explains how to reframe your diet and fitness resolutions this year, to give you a better chance of hitting your goals.
Old Resolution: Start a fitness regime
This typically means either looking to begin an intense fitness regime or setting unrealistic targets of going to the gym. It is a known fact the most gym memberships started in Jan will seriously wane come Feb and this is because we don’t set ourselves realistic time frames or goals. Moreover going to the gym is not the only way we can get fit, healthy and move well.
Mindful intention: Move a little more every day
Take dedicated breaks from the desk to move around. If a destination is 30 mins or under walk to it. Decide on one class per week that could be fitness, yoga or Pilates and block book for 2 months ahead so that its already set but not too much of a commitment that there is the temptation to skip it. In fact, it can be something to look forward to.
Old Resolution: Go on a diet or detox
These are ubiquitous around this time of year, especially after the Christmas break where we may have eaten and drunk a bit more and not moved as much either. The temptation therefore is to go on an extreme diet or detox to ‘shed the pounds,’ but often these lead to more longer-term detrimental consequences for our weight management, never mind the toxic relationship they can breed with body image and self-esteem.
Mindful intention: focus on the foods we can add, rather than remove
Focus on including more nutritionally dense whole foods and diversity in plant foods that enrich our gut microbiome and our body overall. Detach ourselves from categorising any food as ‘bad’ or ‘good’ so that there is no morale value associated with what we are eating. This also allows us to have the foods we may have deemed contraband with a more inclusive approach that makes us less likely to want to go crazy on them due to restriction in the past. It builds a much healthier, sustainable and mindful approach and less of the binge and purge cycle which is not good for our body including weight, or our mind.
Old Resolution: Give up alcohol and/or caffeine
Dry Jan might be something you want to do and good for you if that’s the case but all too often I see people abstaining altogether in January only to go back to their usual drinking patterns as soon as February starts. With caffeine there is also a tendency to go cold turkey which if you’ve ever done this before can result in some pretty heinous withdrawal symptoms.
Mindful intention: Adopt a mindful approach to alcohol and/or caffeine
Look to reduce overall consumption rather than necessarily removing altogether, especially if the intention is to resume drinking alcohol after something like dry Jan. Rosamund Dean in her book ‘Mindful Drinking’ suggests choosing three days per week where you might consume alcohol and limiting to three drinks maximum. This can help to avoid that binge/abstain relationship. And with caffeine try to swap one cup per day with an herbal tea and drink an extra glass of water. Taken over the entire year these will have much more powerful and long-lasting effects than a quick ‘detox’ period.
Old Resolution: Swap to a 100% plant-based diet
This has gained a lot more interest in recent years due to various health and environmental concerns and media attention too. However, often this kind of diet can be followed with no real planning or thought that can leave huge nutritional gaps and actually leave someone feeling physically and emotionally depleted.
Mindful intention: Eat better, eat less
Unless you are looking to adopt an entirely Vegan lifestyle, which is something entirely different, there is no reason to go 100% plant-based to have a healthy or healthier diet. Rather than shunning animal products altogether we can look towards an ‘eat better but eat less’ mindset which means only choosing to consume organic grass-fed or free-range products and reducing the amount to say 3-4 meals per week. The rest of 3-4 days would be largely vegetarian or 100% plant-based. Overall that would result in an increased amount of plants, less animal products, better for our gut health, better for the environment and provide a broad range of nutrients.
Old Resolution: Give up sugar
Ah one of the more common ones here and of course any sane person working in nutrition or health is never going to say that having loads of sugar is good for you. However, having no sugar at all is also not necessary nor does it breed a good relationship with our eating habits or relationship with food. Btw the copious ‘healthy’ bars and whatnot that are marketed as having ‘no refined sugar’ still contain sugars, albeit usually fructose, but ultimately it's all the same thing when consumed in excess.
Mindful intention: A little bit of what you fancy
It’s an age old saying but so true. Having sugar in the form of chocolate, cookies, cakes or whatever it is you enjoy should be part of our diet so we can have a healthy relationship with these foods. If we consider it just like we would any other food it doesn’t have the same connotations or the same pull factor and then it becomes less contraband and doesn’t trigger the same inner rebel factor. Rather than quitting altogether and then succumbing to binges we can plan our favourite sweet thing every week so we really look forward to it.
Old Resolution: Give up ultra-processed takeaways
This one might be driven for health reasons and/or financial ones. Of course, living exclusively on takeaways is not great for many reasons from a health perspective, and neither is it going to do much for your bank balance but there is no need to entirely forgo them.
Mindful intention: Learn a new recipe
We tend to gravitate towards takeaways for ease and convenience but also because we might be bored with the same meals we are cooking for ourselves. With that in mind learning a new recipe every month can easily broaden our repertoire and we can have the satisfaction of having made something ourselves. Perhaps even a take on your favourite takeaway could also be another fun idea.
Eve Kalinik, Gut Health Specialist
Nutritional Therapist, Author and Podcaster, Eve Kalinik believes that having a healthy gut is fundamental to our overall well-being. She is a registered member of (BANT)(CNHC) and accredited by (IFM).